don't devalue the sidelines

Don’t Devalue the Sidelines

Our family is in another season of newness. To start, we’re closing the door on middle school, and come fall; we will have two high schoolers in the same building as their father. We’ve also moved again. This is our third home in this same town. We have moved a total of 2 miles distance-wise more than doubling our square footage with each move, but this one brings significant change. We are homeowners again after a long stint. These moments of newness are layered on top of the world emerging from months of mandated isolation. I’m proud of our sons. At 14 and 16, for the most part, they are handling all the changes with ease. But then again, they’re coaches’ kids, and for them, change is as much a part of life’s routine as buying new clothes when they’ve outgrown their favorite outfits.

One of the interesting things I’ve learned about seasons of change is that while most people resist them, many opportunities are built into each season. Seasons of change demand a pause so we can regroup before forging ahead on a new course. By default, we spend time on the sidelines strengthening our plays, resting for a moment while others are on the field. We observe what we’re up against, and (as my husband is known to say) we make game time decisions on our next moves.

As we embrace the moments of change in front of us, it’s possible new opportunities we hadn’t previously considered will arise. We have the choice to lean into our strengths and gifts in new ways. In these moments, we can embrace how God may be calling us to partner with him, or we can run. One of my favorite podcasters, Emily P. Freeman, recently addressed her response in these situations:

“When hints of my own potential show up in me, I haven’t always welcomed it, but I’m starting to. And in recent years, I’ve done it more and more. And I have to tell you, it feels like waking up.”

In Episode 180 of The Next Right Thing Podcast, Emily goes on to say, “I hope we can all benefit from this reminder to pay attention to places where we’re afraid of our own potential and also to pay attention to our own voice, to how the spirit of God might want to move within and around us.”

As I listened to Emily’s well-timed encouragement, I was grateful for these few moments, and then a sentence stopped me in my tracks. “Second, there’s still blessing, giftedness, leadership, and strength all the way in the back, all the way on the sidelines and in the shadows.

There’s still blessing all the way on the sidelines and in the shadows? Frustration welled up as I pondered how Emily was devaluing the sidelines. Didn’t she understand all the work that occurs on the sidelines? Doesn’t Emily know how intense the sidelines of a game can be when coaches are working coach players to step into their full potential?

And that’s when I realized that Emily was referencing the sidelines as if we stand on the line alone. But here’s the thing, my friend, as a coach’s wife, what we take for granted isn’t naturally understood by the rest of the crowd. While many miss the work that happens on the sidelines, we know the truth. The secret to a team’s success often lies in how responsive they are to the necessary adjustments on the sideline’s benches.

When an athlete determines they will move in their own strength, gifts, talents, and timing, the chances of success for the team reduce drastically. However, when someone remains coachable on the sidelines and uses that time to study, rest, stretch, and ready their body for the moment, they are called upon to step onto the field, the whole team improves regardless of the scoreboard at the end of the game.

No one stands on the sidelines alone, and it’s vital for personal growth that we don’t devalue the opportunities that await us as we regroup.

You may not be in the same season of newness as our family. However, it’s difficult to deny that we’re all feeling our way through some sort of new normal right now. Life is going to look different in the months to come. We’ve been impacted by what we have seen, heard, read, and felt the past year. And that is a good thing.

As we’re released from the sidelines this summer, and into the fall, we will notice that some of our teammates have left the field never to return. The challenge was too much, or God has called them to pursue a different path. Some are running onto the field refreshed and ready to go. Others are looking for ways to linger a little longer on the sidelines.

You may discover that you align with new teammates now. Whichever camp you’re in, don’t devalue the time spent on the sidelines. The work put in learning, the time resting and re-evaluating goals was necessary and important. You learned significant lessons for a reason. Now it’s time to put your lessons into action. Step into your sweet spot and thrive. Your contribution matters and we’re here cheering you on when you need the extra encouragement. That’s what teammates do. 

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